We hear so much about divorce from the media that most people probably already think they know how it works.
But several elements of Florida’s divorce laws are not present in the laws of other states. If you’re considering filing for a divorce in the Sunshine State, it’s helpful to learn as much about the process as possible.
1. You don’t need grounds for divorce.
Florida is a no fault state, which means you don’t need to claim your spouse engaged in bad behavior (like adultery) in order to begin divorce proceedings. Either spouse is allowed to file for divorce under the premise that the marriage is “irrevocably broken”—meaning the two partners cannot get along anymore. The state may, however, consider any allegations of misconduct when structuring alimony, as well as in related custody cases.
2. You might qualify for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
It is possible for Floridians pursuing a divorce to petition for something called a “simplified dissolution of marriage.” As the name suggests, the intention of the option is to provide a quicker route for some couples who wish to divorce.
This option is only available to couples who meet a select number of requirements. For starters, one of the spouses must have lived in Florida longer than six months. The couple must file a Petition for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage with their circuit court clerk, and the following conditions must be present.
- You and your spouse agree that the marriage cannot be saved.
- You and your spouse have no minor or dependent child(ren) together.
- The wife does not have any minor or dependent children born during the marriage.
- The wife is not now pregnant.
- You and your spouse have worked out how the two of you will divide the things that you both own (your assets) and who will pay what part of the money you both owe (your liabilities), and you are both satisfied with this division.
- You are not seeking support (alimony) from your spouse, and vice versa.
- You are willing to give up your right to trial and appeal.
- You and your spouse are both willing to go into the clerk’s office to sign the petition (not necessarily together).
- You and your spouse are both willing to go to the final hearing (at the same time).
Couples who do not meet all of the criteria must file for the standard Dissolution of Marriage. This process begins when one spouse files a “Dissolution of Marriage Form” with the courts. It will also state what that spouse wants in terms of alimony, property division, custody, and/or child support.
3. Florida law divides property fairly—not necessarily equally
Under Florida law, property or assets acquired during the marriage are distributed according to the court’s perception of what is fair. The courts consider contributions to the marriage and other facts of the case in order to produce an “equitable distribution.” If you and your spouse can agree upon a division of property, the court will approve it. If there is disagreement, the court may settle the conflict for you.
4. A divorce attorney can simplify and speed up the process of divorce
Divorce lawyers can prove invaluable to divorcing spouses, especially those in conflict over the terms of the divorce. In addition to counseling you on the legal process, an attorney can help you file divorce documents correctly, ensuring the process is faster and simpler.
If there is conflict, or if your spouse has already secured legal representation, getting an attorney is critical. Your lawyer is a necessary asset while negotiating the terms of custody, alimony, child visitation, property distribution, and other important divorce matters. If no settlement is reached, your attorney will also speak on your behalf in court. For those considering divorce, one of the best resources available is the expert advice of an experienced legal team.